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Bad news on the employment front sent stocks falling early Thursday. Claims for unemployment benefits rose to 399,000, their highest level in six weeks, and investors took the news as a sign that the economic recovery in the U.S. may not be as firmly in place as they had thought. Mostly flat retail sales in December also took their toll. Just after 11 a.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) were down 40 points to 12,409, while the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) fell 3 points to 1,289.
Looking at Dow stocks, Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) was among the biggest losers, down about 2.3%. The energy giant announced that its fourth-quarter profit would fall sharply from previous-quarter levels, citing its refining and marketing business as the primary factor for the shortfall, saying that the business would only post roughly break-even results. Its exploration and production profits should come in close to third-quarter results. ExxonMobil also fell on the news.
IBM (NYSE: IBM ) also gave up ground, falling just less than 2%. With IT consultant Infosys (Nasdaq: INFY ) announcing a lower forecast for its fiscal 2012 because of the slowdown in Europe, investors are concerned that IBM's huge presence in the enterprise IT business could suffer similar problems.
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